All images by Xiao Xu. Used with permission.
Photographer Xiao Xu hails from Los Angeles and shares with us his series on Wen Wan. “Wen Wan began as an artistic practice of bringing ink, brushes, tea and poetry into the landscape to make art,” Xiao explains in an email. “Typically people hold these objects in their hands even when at rest, to bring comfort. Everyone at all class levels engages in the holding of objects in a variety of materials such as jade, walnuts, wood.” Today Wen Wan is defined by the every day interaction between you and the Wen Wan object you carry. In other cultures, you may liken it to something like a talisman.
Xiao’s project uses careful lighting and color placement, in combination with emphasis on the hands and the objects to really make this an effective series.
Here is more of an explanation from Xiao Xu:
Value is created the more you play with your object, the smoother and shinier it becomes. The change you exert on your personal object offers a great source of pride – it is beautiful, but through your daily practice it becomes even more radiant.
My own Wen Wan is an important part of my daily life. I use a wooden beaded bracelet. The meditative practice quiets the world around me, and connects me to myself.
For this series I chose 10 different subjects of varying ages to represent a range of people and Wen Wan. By implementing traditional portrait photography I focus on each one’s personality through the inclusion of their mouth and clothing, but without the distraction of the face. For lighting I looked to Western painters like Velasquez and the way he would separate the subject from the background using the brightest illumination for the subject. I lit each object in a circle of light to enunciate its special qualities when held in the hand.